Mortal Fire

Thanks to a friend, NC, I have just read a deeply moving collection of poetry by Peter Dale entitled Mortal Fire. The collection is divided into seven sections. It begins with an estranged son addressing a dead father (‘Unaddressed Letter’) and it ends with a dying father addressing an absent son (‘It Is Finished’). In between we inter alia accompany a world-weary surgeon in his reflections on lost idealistic compassion and explore the strain drug addiction places on friends and children. The ben trovato overall title comes from George Herbert: ‘Man is no starre, but a quick coal/Of mortall fire…’ The first poem is a hard act to follow. The son recognises that he is becoming his father as he gazes in the mirror (‘I watched my face become your likeness…’ and ‘Your wrinkles soon will ride my features…’) and he is eloquent on that perhaps universal sentiment, part guilt, part frustration, that all children feel towards dead parents – ‘And there are other words I would have had for you…’ , as well as on the critical thoughts we can now have without causing hurt or undermining love; ‘I could only say this now you’re dead. I know/It cannot wound you secretly…’ Thank you, NC!

1 Comment

  1. Peter L Nielsen

    Time is a strange thing. Allow me to present to you a wonderfull Danish poet – Benny Andersen. I have tried to make an English version og his Danish Poem: “TIME” – See if it makes sence:

    The time

    We have twelfth watches in our house
    Regardless, we never have enough time.
    You walk into your kitchen
    Get’s some Cocoa milk for your little son
    But when you get back he is too old for Cocoa milk
    Demands beer, girls and revolution.
    You have to use the time, while you have it.
    Your daughter comes home from School
    Go outside to skip
    Comes back a little later
    And asks if you can babysit for the little one
    While she and her husband goes to the theatre.
    And while they are in the theatre
    The little one, with some difficulty, moves up in 7th secondary
    You have to use the time, while you have it.
    You photograph your so far young wife
    With a blood red Gypsy headscarf,
    But hardly are the photos developed
    Before she announces, that it’s her time to retire on pension
    Slowly the Widow awakes in her
    You want to use the time
    But it seems to disappear all the time
    Where does it go?
    Has it ever been here?
    Have you used too much time to delay the time?
    You must use the time, in time
    Walk around a while, without time or place
    And when time comes
    Phone home and hear:
    “You have called 95949392
    The subscriber do no longer exist”

    Benny Andersen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2024 Martin Westlake

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑